Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why I left the German Evangelical Church (of which I was never a member)

by EscutcheonBlotLong ago, at the close of the last century, as a starry-eyed young Escutcheon arrived in Germany for his first engagement, he was taken by an obliging--if officious--young man from the theater employing them both, to complete the paperwork necessary for a temporary (8 week) work and residence permit. In Germany, at that time, this was done for each job, in each town, for each contractual period, and not one second longer.

Young Master Blot did not, at the time, understand a word of German, and was led through the beaurocratic vicissitudes(and Brother, can those Germans make some vicissitudes) by the helpful young German. He was quite astonished to be asked his religion. He replied, like any red-blooded American Boy "None of your damn business". He was told that German Law required him to declare. He said "Very well, then...Christian".

"Protestant or Catholic?"

"Episcopalian...the American branch of Anglicanism."

"Is that Protestant or Catholic?"


"Thank you Herr Blot. Here is your visa".

And so I thought, "well, when in Rome, and so forth, what?"

Years later, as I began to understand German better, and began questioning the various tax categories on my pay slips, I was horrified to discover that I had been paying between 3 and 5% in tax to the German Evangelical Church (the Lutherans). For German Officialdom, the only Protestant church is the Lutheran. I informed several of the theaters where I was working that I was not then, nor had I ever been, a Lutheran...I was raised Episcopalian(which has its own drawbacks). I was informed that I was permanently a part of the those-be-taxed-for-the-benefit-of-the-Lutherans, and they could not extract me. The Lutheran and Catholic Churches are the two Established churches of Germany. All who belong must pay the church tax. (Anglicanism, which is not Established, is also not taxed...but no one informed me of this back in 1999. Other faiths are also not taxed.)

As I grew more confident I started to try to fight the church beaurocracy and get my damn(if not in fact damned) money back, which had been taken from me for 4 or 5 years running. Three percent doesn't sound like much, but it really adds up after a while. I was told by the church themselves that their beaurocracy couldn't handle the possibility that someone was mistakenly put into their flock. It (according to the church tax flunky with whom I spoke) happened too seldom for there to be a procedure to rectify it. My money was gone. My only choice was to go to the Ministry for Inhabitants for my Berlin urban division and officially declare that I wished to renounce my allegiance to the Evangelical which I had never belonged.

So I went to the Ministry for Inhabitants of the City Division of Schoeneberg, Berlin, where I officially left the German Evangelical Church...becoming apostate in the eyes of the German State.

I got a certificate.

This, gentle reader, is what the 1st Ammendment to the Constitution is talking about when it forbids the establishment of a church. The Anglican Church was similarly established in most, if not all of the 13 colonies, and the taxes to support it were particularly onerous. (Fun fact: the movement to keep the Anglicans Established in Ireland in the 19th century gave rise to one of the English language's longest and most fun words, antidisestablishmentarianism. Lovely).

Yours, poorer, wiser, and apostate,

Escutcheon Blot(the officially un-churched)

P.S. I found out later that a large portion of the taxes that both the Catholics and Lutherans take in are from foreigners like myself who are conned into declaring for one or the other. So few Germans are willing to belong to the taxable flock that the churches must fleece the incoming ignorant to stay afloat.
P.P.S. I don't wish for this to be seen as an Easter Morning denunciation of Faith. I have never lost faith; just as I have never been Lutheran.

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